On my first promotion I joined as Joint commissioner of Customs, Indo –Nepal border at Muzaffarpur , Bihar on 27th September 1995 during Navratra’s. During my visit to Patna a few days later I was surprised to see the way Durga Puja was celebrated in the city. Accordingly I planned and visited the City of joy Kolkata to be a part of the the Puja celebration in 1997 .We remained in Kolkata for 4 days and thoroughly enjoyed as the festivity was at its peak.
During my stay at Delhi from 1998 to 2002 we made a point to visit the Durga Pandal organized by the Durga Puja Samity on the Minto Road being on my way to Connaught Place, New Delhi. Later on during 6 years of my stay from 2002 to 2008, even at Raipur in the state of Chhatisgarh the festival was celebrated with all enthusiasm.
In 2008 I was sent to Kolkatta as Commissioner Service Tax. During that period I got a chance to not only see the various decorated pandals during the Navratri festival but even visited Kumartoli, the place where the statues of Maa Durga are made from the scratch. The small area having a number of small street and a large number of statues being made by hard working artisans round the clock.
During Navratri, three forms of the goddess Durga , Laxmi and Saraswati are invoked. Goddess Durga is worshipped during first three days , followed by Goddess Laxmi for next three days and finally Goddess Saraswati is worshipped during the last three days. Goddess Durga comes to the earth with her entire entourage and ushers in the biggest carnival on earth. She is also worshipped under 9 different names for the 9 days in Navratri. Every day she takes a new character ,a new look and a new role.
Three religious rituals namely Chokku Daan (the day when eyes of Goddess Durga are painted for Durga Puja ) ,Kola Bou bath ,the ritual for Pran Pratistha on the 7th day, Dashmi, the last day of the puja when the idol is taken to the water body for immersion, are worth mentioning. In the earlier times Durga Maa was sent to her consort in a very special way. As soon as the idol was immerged in the water, immediately a pair of bird namely Neelkanth or Indian Roller were released to carry the message to Lord Shiva that Maa Durga is on her way to Mount Kailash. Now that practice has been banned by the forest department. I remember in Chhatisgarh sighting of a Indian Roller on the day of Vijay Dashmi or Dushera is considered auspicious for the simple reason of non availability of them in the wild as most of them must have been caught by the bird trappers to satisfy the need of the public.
Maa Durga is one of the most popular Goddesses among the Hindu’s. She represents strength, morality power and protection. She is mother of Ganesh, Kartikeya, Saraswati and Laxmi. In reality Durga Puja is the worship of lord Shiva as Durga is his consort and other members are her children.
During the festival nightlife is exciting and it is to be experienced .The energy with which it is celebrated is something one has to see to believe it. Pandal hopping is common and the traffic comes to a standstill. Even the Government vehicle having red lights face the problem as everybody is in hurry to visit maximum number of prominent pandals in the city.
I remember during my posting at Kolkata in the year 2009 ,I started from my house at Alipur in South Kolkatta at 2100 hrs and went beyond the airport . My target was to visit famous pandals from airport area, covering the Salt lake, Maniktala ,Beliaghata, Bhavanipur , Ballygunj, and have a feel of the festival. By 2 A.M I had visited about 12 to 13 pandals and came back to my house .A life time experience.
The puja fever grips the heart of everyone in the city irrespective of age, class, creed or gender. The same is still etched fresh in my mind.
Many people may not be aware of the fact that for the idols , the first lump of clay for making Durga idols is collected from the door steps of a prostitute. Then it is mixed with the clay collected from the river Hoogly . One may like to see the later version of Bollywood movie Devdas wherein lead role was played by Shah Rukh Khan and the importance of soil from the doorsteps of the prostitute have been shown.
Whatever you may call it , it is essentially the worship of womanhood and celebration of the supreme source of power Maa Durga .It is also a fact that in the present time women are playing a leading role in many spheres which were earlier dominated by man. Recently the women players brought laurels in the Rio Olympics.